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Film Review: One For the Money

Feb 04, 2012 07:01AM ● By Justin Buettner

Based on the popular book series by Janet Evanovich, One For the Money follows the exploits of New Jersey tough girl Stephanie Plum who has plenty of attitude despite being out of work and out of luck. Desperate, Plum takes a job working for her sleazy cousin’s bail bond company as a recovery agent (aka a bounty hunter). Undeterred that she doesn’t even know how to fire a weapon, Plum goes after the company’s number one target Joe Morelli, a vice cop on the run suspected of murder. Morelli also happens to be Plum’s ex-boyfriend from high school. Once she finds Morelli, Plum gets wrapped up in the case and helps Morelli solve the crime.

To be blunt, One For the Money  is a bad movie. Having not read the book series, I can’t attest to how faithful the adaption is (although from what I hear the movie butchers the book), but the movie screams amateur. Director Julie Anne Robinson does very little to help elevate this movie in terms of style, pacing or getting decent performances from her actors. The choices made in this film are nothing short of uninspired and boring, and that includes set design and music too. The whole production just looks and feels lazy.

The story itself has the basic elements of at least being entertaining, and perhaps if the film was in more capable hands it might have been. There are glimpses in the movie that the character of Stephanie Plum probably has a lot of personality in the book series. Whatever personality the character might have had in the film is quickly murdered by Katherine Hegl who simply cannot act and despite her good looks -- frankly, the film is just boring to watch. Hegl is a one note actor, much like Jeff Goldblum (who is infinitely more likable and interesting by the way). Audiences seem to like her in the “pretty, career-oriented, square girl who can’t find a man” role. In movies like Knocked Up and 27 Dresses she plays the straight “wo”man to the comic actors. Hegl does have an intelligent look to her, but at the same time she never looks happy and in general never comes across as a fun person to be around -- and, in these movies the audience usually connects with the guy who pursues her because they are infinitely more likable and relatable. We don’t have that character in One For the Money to balance out Hegl.

In One For the Money Hegl is front and center in a role that does not match her at all. In addition, her New Jersey accent is awful and comes and goes throughout the entire movie. The character of Plum is written as a loud mouthed, quick tongued, Jersey girl -- none of which Hegl even remotely conveys. I can’t help but to imagine a real actress like Marisa Tomei in the role -- she certainly would have been a better casting choice and the movie would have instantly become watchable. Just take her performance from My Cousin Vinny and slap it in this film and all of a sudden we’d have a lead worth watching, even with all of the film's other problems. Oh well.

Unfortunately, the poor performances aren't solely on Hegl's shoulders. Debbie Reynolds, who plays Plum’s grandmother, is even more painful to watch than Hegl and that’s saying something. Reynolds should be handed next year’s Razzie for worst supporting performance right now as I don’t think she will be beat (or at least I hope not). The rest of the supporting cast are quickly forgettable as they drift through this forgettable mess.

It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t treat this series with a bit more respect. It does have a faithful following for its book series, and even with a little bit of effort and creativity they could have developed a small franchise. As it stands I doubt (and hope) a sequel is not forthcoming. One For the Money is so bad it earned one of the lowest ratings ever on Rotten Tomatoes at 3%. The lone positive review said he found it to be a “guilty pleasure.” I contend he is guilty of bad taste as there is nothing pleasurable in this movie. This will definitely be remembered as one of the worst movies of the year, and even if you’re a fan of the book series I’d save your money and pass on seeing this catastrophe.

Films like One For the Money : Gigli, The Ugly Truth, and The Bounty Hunter

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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